Studies show that a natural math ability is not required for a student to succeed. Sure, natural talent does help some children get ahead and is especially evident in the lower grades, but a study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim showed that the biggest predictor of success was practice and a positive attitude.
"You become good at exactly what you practice," said Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson, of NTNU's Department of Psychology. "Our study shows little correlation between (being good at) the nine different mathematical skills," Sigmundsson said. "For instance there is little correlation between being able to solve a normal addition in the form of '23 + 67′ and addition in the form of a word problem."
Math is a subject that most students think that they can or can't do. While they are happy to admit that other subjects require hard work to succeed, you often hear the "I'm not good at math," refrain. Everybody can be good at math, but it does take perseverance, patience and hard work.
Start with a positive inner dialogue
Ask your child to change their inner and outer dialogue about math. Instead of thinking that they can't do it or that they aren't good at it, they should focus on the positive. "Well, I got pretty far on that one," or "at least I got the beginning part right" are better ways to look at the situation. When sitting down to homework or to study for a test, a quick pep talk will do wonders.
Offer rewards for short and long-term goals
Offering big rewards for unattainable goals can actually be counter-productive as children feel that larger goals are just too difficult to achieve. Instead, set up a series of short-term goals that are manageable. For example; ask your child to improve their math grade by 5% and offer a reward that they can get excited about. Achieving short-term goals will boost their confidence and make them more inclined to believe that the long-term goals are also attainable.
When children do achieve goals, praise them and be sure to mention that it was their hard work and perseverance that led to success.
Avoid homework wars
If you have to nag and cajole your children to do their math homework or if working with you creates tension, then it may be time to switch tactics. Ask your children to speak with the teacher at least once a week. Here they should take in problems that they are struggling with and ask for help. Showing examples of their work will help the teacher to see where they are going wrong.
Consider getting an in-home math tutor. If your child is struggling with school math, sending them to a learning center where they will get more school math is probably not the answer. Instead, get a one-to-one tutor to set out an academic game plan for their math curriculum. This should include filling in gaps in their foundational mathematical knowledge and teaching study and organizational skills.
Remember that when it comes to math, attitude is more important than ability. You can use Einstein as an example; when he was nine, his teacher told his father that, no matter what career he chose, he would not succeed!